Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Epilepsy Health Center

Font Size

Epilepsy Surgery May Be Best Bet When Medications Fail

WebMD Health News

June 19, 2000 -- At least once a week, Jane Price dresses up as a clown and visits hospitals and nursing homes in Gardendale, Ala., where she lives. "When someone's in the hospital, they feel bored; they don't feel at home," she says. "A clown can bring patients a touch of joy. We call it 'therapeutic humor.'"

Price, a 54-year-old housewife, knows what it's like to live with a long-term illness. She has epilepsy, and no medication was able to treat it successfully. She used to have 10 to 20 seizures per month, but five years ago, her doctor encouraged her to look into surgery. "Since the surgery, I haven't had any seizures at all," she says.

Price is one of the lucky ones. About 80% of epilepsy patients can be controlled with medicine or surgery, but 20% can't be controlled even with treatment, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke in Bethesda, Md. And the results of surgery for epilepsy are unpredictable. Still, for patients who aren't helped by medications, it may be the treatment of choice.

About 2.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with epilepsy, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America in Landover, Md. Epilepsy refers to a whole group of nervous system disorders that cause repeated seizures. These seizures can take many forms, ranging from subtle, uncontrollable twitching to convulsive movements and loss of consciousness. Epilepsy has many possible causes, such as brain injuries and tumors.

The standard treatment for epilepsy is antiseizure medication. The physician may try one medication after another to find the drug that works best for a specific patient and which has the lowest possible side effects.

However, some patients continue having seizures after trying all available medications. For these people, surgery is an option to consider. In 1990, a consensus conference of the National Institutes of Health estimated surgery may be appropriate for 10 to 20% of people with epilepsy.

"Because of new technological developments in recent years, surgery has become a more important option for people with epilepsy," says Peter Van Haverbeke, director of public relations for the Epilepsy Foundation in Landover, Md. "Many people we know have experienced significant benefit from surgery, after trying medications that failed." However, he points out that medication is definitely the first course of action.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

human head and brain waves
Causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Grand mal seizure
How is each one different?
marijuana plant
CBD, a plant chemical, may cut down seizures.
prescription bottle
Which medication is right for you?
Seizures Driving
Questions for Doctor Epilepsy
Graces Magic Diet
Pills spilling from bottle in front of clock
first aid kit
Caring Child Epilepsy
Making Home Safe
epilepsy monitoring

WebMD Special Sections